Hiring Our Heroes job fair part of week-long, national hiring push

MSNBC's Richard Lui reports from the Hiring Our Heroes jobs fair in New York City, where veterans are seeking opportunities with companies as civilians.

The math is mean. Post-9/11 veterans lug a steep unemployment rate that's a point-plus taller than the civilian rate. Add to that the 34,000 troops who soon will return from Afghanistan. Bottom line: The existing bulge of ex-military job seekers threatens to further swell in a world where stripes carry no sway. 

How to crack that cold equation? Just a little face time, says unemployed veteran Ruty Rutenberg, who believes that simply standing eye-to-eye with a hiring manager allows former service members to naturally radiate the ocean of intangibles that can only be absorbed in combat. 

"That presence, that aura about military people is very tough to see online in a resume, where (HR executives) are only looking at lines of text," says Rutenberg, 29, who served as an Army medic in Iraq, riding in Black Hawk helicopters. He's been searching for his "mainstay" career for about a year. "Online, it's tough to tell a person's emotions, let alone a person's energy.

Ian Horn special for NBC News

"Online, it's tough to tell a person's emotions, let alone a person's energy," said Ruty Rutenberg, 29, who attended a job fair in Los Angeles on Tuesday.


"But when you get to be right in front of these people and interact with them, there is no trepidation for veterans in those moments. We've been in stressful situations that people can't fathom, that they've only seen in movies," Rutenberg said Tuesday at a job fair in Los Angeles sponsored by Got Your 6, an entertainment-industry-backed, national veterans campaign. NBCUniversal is a partner in that movement. 

On Wednesday, Hiring Our Heroes — a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation that aims to get veterans back into the work force — is hosting a hiring fair at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City.

For veterans like Melissa Fay, a former lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, adjusting to civilian life and finding a job can be tough –  but after a few edits to her resume, Melissa landed a position with General Electric as a financial analyst. NBC's Kerry Sanders reports.

Click here for a list of upcoming Hiring Our Heroes job fairs.

Both events are part of the Got Your 6 "veteran hiring week." Such events, Rutenberg believes, are critical for companies with spots to fill and veterans with bills to pay: "One of the things the military ingrains in us is how to be present and confident in the moment, really in any moment." 

Still, owning that moment may require a touch of coaching, say some career counselors, who have spotted common, repeated flaws in the resumes and in interviewing skills of ex-service members.

Humility 'can be damning'
On paper, the mistakes typically involve the use of jargon: cumbersome acronyms, technical descriptions, and — to many civilians — the complicated system of military ranks. Is a "specialist" special? 

MSNBC's Richard Lui, joins Andrea Mitchell Reports live from the Hiring Our Heroes Jobs Fair in New York and explains how the initiative is trying to help veterans market themselves better in the work force.

"They feel: 'I've earned this rank. I want to make it prominent on my resume.' But that's one of the biggest complaints we hear from employers. They don't understand what 'sergeant first class' means," says Shareem Kilkenny, co-owner of Veteran Career Counseling Services. She operates VCCS with her husband, Kester Kilkenny, an Army veteran who spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

"What I have to get them to understand is: How do I translate their ranks and skills into the skills that employers are looking for? It might be better, for example, if a resume reads: 'Worked under extremely stressful conditions,' or 'Worked in a deadline-driven environment' or 'Dealt with constant change.' ”

Jon Soltz of VoteVets.org, talks about the unemployment numbers about veterans and their spouses and shares his thoughts on the Hiring Our Heroes initiative.

In addition to reading like a foreign language, militaryspeak may just get a veteran's resume tossed, warns Elizabeth Hruska, assistant director of career and internship services at the University of Minnesota

"This can be a barrier to a civilian employer who needs to quickly understand the basics of you and your qualifications — and (emphasize) quickly: Employers tell us they spend only 10 to 30 seconds on that initial resume once-over," Hruska says. 

While many veteran candidates may try to pitch themselves as the ultimate team players, some are prone to selling themselves short due to that group-first mindset, says Jason Dozier, veteran transition specialist with Hire Heroes USA, a nonprofit dedicated to creating job opportunities to veterans and their spouses through personalized employment training. 

"Military members are very team-oriented, and the word 'individual' can be a euphemism for those who fail to be a productive member of that team," Dozier said. "And so tasks and accomplishments are more likely to be framed as 'we' rather than as 'I.' Humility is a great virtue, but it can be damning if you're looking to be competitive in the job market."  



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Nothing ever changes. When my father, and his friends, returned from WWII they found that the only jobs were down in the coal mines and there was a lot of competition for those jobs. When I returned to civilian life there were no jobs and the 'great society' had just started.

Those that protect the country have always been screwed by those that they protected.

Nothing ever changes!

    Reply#81 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:12 PM EDT

    cunical, absolutley...

    Management by crisis seems to be the SOP. I have never seen the government be able to get ahead of anything including the most obvious of issues.

      #81.1 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:24 PM EDT

      These warriers should be warned by thier recruiter prior to signing up.

      "Yeah, hey, just so you know...when you are done with this baseless activity that will put your life in danger, you will be starting all over with no job, minimal education and there will be no market for you. Sign here please..."

      These adults will have to probably live with parents, relatives, friends if they are lucky. Eat top ramen and rice for years and take a bus or walk where ever they go. if they don't wind up strung out in a crack house it wil be a feat in itself. Vietnam all over again!

        Reply#83 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 6:43 PM EDT

        Yes, and they should also be told that if they want to gain more experience the military will pay for them to go to college to gain a degree and skills in addition to what they are currently being trained to do and it is THEIR decision as to whether to take advantage of those perks, which, every military person knows the GI Bill is available for them to utilize.

        Oh, and btw, do you know that there are billions of people who eat ramen noodles and rice on a daily basis and have done it for all their lives? They are called Asians - I eat rice 3x a day. Love it with everything. So, just wondering what type of problem you have with eating those staples on a daily basis, because you make it sound sooo degrading. And no, I am not obese in anyway due to these foods.

        And those skills learned in the military are transferable to civilian world. Just have to look and see if those jobs are available. Probably not, due to this sequester.

          #83.1 - Sat May 4, 2013 10:40 AM EDT
          Comment author avatarBob Prosenvia Facebook

          The best way to zero in on the right position is to first select several companies you might want to work for. Go to their website and see if they have any open positions posted. If so, read the job descriptions and requirements to see if any match the position you're looking for.

          Once you find companies that have the jobs you want you'll have to think and act differently to get hired. If you’re wed to the traditional way of job-hunting you’re destined to compete with everyone else chasing the same few opportunities.

          The most effective way to get a job is to think like an employer. Sounds simple but many people don’t appreciate the importance or know how to do it.

          Before beginning your search you have to understand why all companies hire. It’s to solve problems and your challenge is to position yourself as the solution. In other words, hiring you allows the company to solve problems faster, better and cheaper than they could without you. Here’s how to start.

          Step 1 - Identify your skills and expertise.

          Step 2 - Find the companies you want to work for and research them to uncover their problems. Use the Internet, Google alerts, read press releases and speak with current and former employees.

          Your ability to uncover your target employers’ problems and position yourself as the solution is what will get you hired.

          Here are just a few potential problem areas. Completing projects on time and on budget, improve product quality, improve customer service, increase sales, reduce costs, enhance online marketing, etc.

          Step 3 – Identify the hiring manager.

          Step 4 – Create a personal marketing plan to get your solutions in the hands of the hiring manager.

          Step 5 – Develop a “One-Sheet” resume, to separate you from the crowd, along with a set of compelling cover letters that show your experience solving similar problems.

          Step 6 – Follow up is essential to getting an interview. Be persistent but not a pest.

          As a former executive with several Fortune companies I know how leaders think. People who have followed this process have gotten hired.

          You'll also get a lot of value from this interview

          Good luck and never give up!

          Bob Prosen – CEO
          The Prosen Center for Business Advancement
          P.S. Market yourself to the companies you want to work for whether or not they have an opening.

            Reply#84 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 10:16 PM EDT

            My husband is a retired Army vet who just lost his job due to the sequester. He worked as a contract Instructor for the Army and when that sequester hit, his company's contract was not renewed and he and his colleagues, vets and retired vets, lost their jobs. It's not just the young vets who are just leaving the service who are having a hard time finding work - it's also the retired vets and those who also left the service years ago. Problem is, there just aren't jobs out there. Having retirement pay helps and still having access to Tricare is a great help, but retirement pay doesn't help with all the bills. The vets I know have gone into law enforcement, but depending on where you live, those positions can also be frozen. (Vets make great law enforcement officers, btw).

            Instead of focusing on other things like making friends with Mexico and Immigration Reform and Gun Bills, shouldn't we focus on a real problem affecting millions of Americans, like JOBS and a stable economy!!! This administration has focused on everything except jobs, which I believe his victory speech stated jobs and a stable economy were needed to help the Middle class survive. So far, I don't see much talk about this issue anymore. Ah well, I guess we will all be relying on handouts from the government to survive. Is that the master plan for this government?

              Reply#85 - Sat May 4, 2013 10:21 AM EDT
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